As if the coronavirus pandemic was not consequential enough, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, fought head-on with California authorities – which included a Twitter saga and a lawsuit. What really went down?
The Final Straw
Like all automobile companies that have witnessed disruptions to their production, the US government’s order to close Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, was most hampering for them since they were in the midst of ramping up production for its new Model Y. While California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that manufacturers in the state were allowed to reopen, a move Musk encouraged, Tesla was not given the green light by the Public Health Department to do so.
With Tesla’s Fremont plant sitting idly since 24 March and Alameda County’s lockdown set till the end of May, Musk tweeted that Tesla would be suing the county at once. He added condescending views of the interim Health Officer, Erica Pan, as an “unelected county official” and stated that such actions were illogical and against the Governor, the President and their Constitutional freedom.
Frankly, this is the final straw. Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependen on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 9, 2020
Musk further tweeted that this was the “final straw” as he plans to move Tesla’s headquarters out of California and into Nevada or Texas.
Having over 30 million followers on Twitter, Musk is known to be outspoken with his tweets and is one of America’s corporate most-watched. Taking this matter to Twitter, Musk has garnered the support from Fremont Mayor Lily Mei and Palo Alto Mayor Adrian Fine.
Lockdown Orders Are Nothing Against Musk
The extended stay-home order was not stopping Musk and his plans to restart Tesla’s Fremont factory, as he dared authorities to arrest him.
On May 12, Musk tweeted that the automaker has defied the county’s regulation and has restarted operations with safe distancing measures. Despite the county’s response for Tesla to halt production, workers continue to head to work. The billionaire CEO also said that he would be involved in the assembly line with the workers. It was observed that the factory’s parking lots were filled on the day production resumed.
Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2020
Following Tesla’s reopening of the factory, President Donald Trump tweeted to show Musk support and appealed to the Californian authorities to allow the resumption of the plant immediately.
California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2020
With the Fremont plant back in action, we scratch heads and wonder if Tesla will still move out of California.
Productivity At Its Best
As Tesla and the county officials work on an agreement, around 200 Model Y and Model 3 cars were produced over the weekend. The deal involved an initial agreed-upon safety plan including Minimum Basic Operations to reopen.
Musk’s overt actions of restarting the Fremont factory in spite of the lockdown regulations spurred the 250-member Fit4All Gym owner in Lebanon, Illinois, David Tate, to do the same. He looks up to Musk as a significant ally who voices out against government measures.
The Drama Cools
Tesla and the Alameda County Public Health Department who were embroiled in Tesla’s Fremont plant reopening, appeared to have settled on an agreement – One that replicates the original scheduled date of May 18. Similar to the rest of the North American car makers who were set to restart on May 18, this dramatic duel arose for somewhat nothing, given the now agreed date to recommence is the same.
Authorities have assured that the local police will be ensuring Tesla abides by the protocols on social distancing. However, it is not clear if the officers will be checking on the factory from time to time or only on May 18.
With all the actions undertaken by Musk throughout the saga, county officials continually said that a plan was in works with Tesla to reopen safely, since April 30.
Clearly frustrated, Musk called the stay-home order “fascist” and advocated freedom from the government. He has been taking this coronavirus unhappiness to Twitter on the restrictions ever since the company released its first-quarter earnings on April 29. Furthermore, this is not Musk’s first time clashing with measures meted out by the authorities, seen in the shelter-in-place orders that were put in place in March.
It appears that the power of Musk’s tweet was akin to Thanos’s, a Marvel character, use of the Time Stone to reverse the process, like how Tesla restored its production and triumphed over the clash with the authorities.